Over the years NAPALM DEATH has almost become like a household name. Some will consider it as a strong achievement for a band that has pioneered extreme speed, some will consider it as sellout to the underground cause. As for myself I was lucky enough to have discovered this act when they were still unknown, and it did happen simply because I was swapping tapes with Shane Embury who was at the time the drummer for the thrashiest band in U.K. at the time, WARHAMMER. From then a lot of water went under the bridge, I got to know NAPALM DEATH drummer Mick Harris real well and was one of the first to give them coverage outside the U.K. Shane became their bass player, following the first demos recorded in ’86, numerous albums followed, major line up changes happened, our friendship ended up for different reasons etc etc etc. But recently, after having renewed contact with that extreme music veteran, I had him agreeing to answer to a long in depth interview covering his nearly 20 years music career, having him talking about WARHAMMER, UNSEEN TERROR, AZAG-THOTH, NAPALM DEATH etc etc. I also made sure to come up with exclusive pictures coming from my archives to make this feature even more interesting for you, the readers…
So Shane you’ve been involved in the Metal scene for like 18 years or so now, so how did it all start in the first place for you like discovering Heavy Metal and gradually looking for more and more thrashing acts as you were involved big time in the tape trading network back in the mid 80s?
"I guess I got into guitar orientated bands as far back as when I was 6 or 7, as I used to listen to bands from the U.K. like SLADE who were big in the U.K. at the time – I really liked the guitar even though it’s nothing like what I got into. So it started there and as the years went by I got into SABBATH, PRIEST, THIN LIZZY, AC/DC and stuff like that. Coming from a really small village in Shropshire there was only me and a few other friends who shared the same likes – we all went to school with each other and went to the same shows ie SAXON, IRON MAIDEN, TYGERS OF PAN TANG. This went on for some time, quickly getting into heavier stuff – for me I think it is safe to say that VENOM were one of the bands that changed my life, they were so heavy for the time, this got me into METALLICA and SLAYER and all the mid eighties Thrash stuff that was happening, these bands were responsible for me forming my first band with my close friends – Mitch Dickinson and Wayne Aston. I guess it is different for everyone but for me and Mitch we always wanted the crazier bands, the heavier, the fastest (well I guess it was the same vibe for most of those who have experienced that particular period of time from the feedback I got over the years – Laurent) and it was around late 1985 that we go into contact with Bill Steer and Ken Owen (we got their names from a popular mag called Metal Forces), we wrote to those guys telling them of our band and that we wanted to listen to some new stuff, they introduced us to POSSESSED and DEATH, we managed to get a small list of tapes together and then we managed to get our own contacts and the whole thing spread like wild fire. I was at one point getting around 20-30 tapes a week so the amount of bands I was listening to was amazing – at that point there was just so much stuff being released on demos and a lot of it so different compared to what was happening in the mainstream…"
What’s the biggest difference that you have seen between the original Thrash / Death / Crossover Metal scene which had appeared in the mid 80s and the actual one? Would you say that sometimes you feel like a certain nostalgia towards those magical days?
"You always look to your youth with fondness I think as they were the growing days when you start to work out what you are about and what you are gonna become (or not become as the case may be). To me it seemed like those bands were really taking their influences and creating something different – they were the blue prints for what was to come later, there was no thoughts of making any money, there was a purity to the music that was being made and tape traded around the world – very innocent times I think and that has changed a lot over the years (or maybe I see it a different way now). Things are a lot easier now I think for bands these days and that’s not a bad thing, I think the underground scene of the mid to late eighties helped this – without all those bands laying down the ground work you wouldn’t have what you have today and to be honest I don’t see the originality as much but then again I am a lot older now so there is of course that."
Was WARHAMMER the very first band you’ve been involved with back in ’85? If not, what can you tell us about your previous acts and how did you end up being a drummer at first?
"Well WARHAMMER actually formed in ’84 and pretty much was the first band that I was properly involved with. Me and my friends had garage bands that never got past having two members in so I don’t think they really count. I ended playing the drums as when I was young I always used to grab my grandmothers buckets and beat the shit out of them so I guess I always had a thing for rhythm. Also the rest of the guys all wanted to play guitar so I made it easier for them by taking up the drums, at the time I couldn’t really grasp the guitar it was something that came later as I watched people play and drums made the most logical choice."
WARHAMMER was a Thrash Metal act whose main influences were certainly SLAYER, EXODUS and the likes. Can you tell us more about this band who featured in its ranks your future partner in UNSEEN TERROR, Mitch Dickinson for example…
"Well the line up was me on drums, Mitch Dickinson on guitar, Wayne Aston on guitar and Mike Craddock on bass / vocals. I guess the influences were SLAYER, VENOM, POSDSESSED, BATHORY and the likes. We were the only people into Metal where we lived so it made sense to us to form a band as that’s what we lived for – we used to get together at night and talk about doing shows in far away places – all that kind of stuff, as I said we lived in a real small place so it was very unusual at the time to be doing what we were doing – I think at the time we were the only real Thrash band apart from maybe ONSLAUGHT – there wasn’t too many bands at the time trying to play what we did."
WARHAMMER biggest accomplishment back then was the ’85 demo "Abattoir Of Death", a six track affair which was heavily traded around and got favorable reviews in a few fanzines. What do you remember from that very first effort? Was it a studio effort by the way?
"We recorded that demo at a studio not far away a couple of days after my 18th birthday. We did the whole thing for £50 – which to us was a lot of money at the time as none of us really worked. We didn’t have much experience but I remember coming home that night and calling Bill Steer and playing it down the phone for him to listen to (as he had come to see us play live before). I remember being really excited saying that it sounded like POSSESSED on "Seven Churches" (which at the time to me it did) and I guess that’s all that mattered to me at that time, we did it in one day – I was a little out of time but it was a great experience looking back."
Who was the main songwriter at that time in that band? Did you already have a big hand in that department or at least in the arrangements or was it mainly Mitch and Wayne?
"The riffs were Wayne and Mitch and I guess I got more into the arrangements as at the time I didn’t play guitar that well, I think maybe the occasional riff but I wasn’t very confident. More arrangements and lyrics and of course Mike wrote lyrics and I think the occasional riff though at that time the lyrics were all fantasy based and very Metal – which is no bad thing in my book!"
As far as I know, the band did play only one show in its original area, in Telford, U.K. on December 27th 1985. How did that local gig did go? Was it your first live experience? There was some covers included if I’m correct (SLAYER I believe) right?
"We actually played two shows with the band, we did a show in a a place called Oswestry which is in Wales and that show was on the 19th of December 1985 – I think there are still some photos of Bill and Ken from CARCASS down the front headbanging somewhere which Mitch has. We played ‘Black Magic’ by SLAYER, ‘Bombs Of Death’ by HIRAX, these were the first shows I had ever done, they went pretty good – I think we pissed most of the crowd off as they were into more middle of the road stuff and were not used to seeing a band like us, a couple of guys from the band CANCER were there as well as they were from the same area and good friends of ours – this was way before they formed their band though."
From what I remember, by early / mid ’86 WARHAMMER started to come up with heavier / faster material as it could be heard on rehearsals that you were spreading around, but ironically it seems the band broke up shortly after because of that newer approach, so what happened exactly which caused WARHAMMER’s split?
"I think that me and Mitch were definitively into speeding the band up in style and approach as we were starting to get into DEATH and POSSESSED more, also I think we had just heard the "Rigor Mortis" rehearsal demo that DEATH had done with Matt (Olivo) and Scott (Carlson) from REPULSION and that was the way we wanted to go. Wayne and Mike on the other hand were more content I think with METALLICA and EXODUS, some people were / are interesting as they both listen to faster stuff now I just think me and Mitch were possibly ahead in our thinking – we just wanted to get faster, this pretty much led to the split which at the time really upset me – all part of growing up."
Would you agree that musically WARHAMMER were without any doubt probably the first real Thrash / Death band ever in the U.K. something started by VENOM years earlier but taken to a stronger / heavier place by WARHAMMER?
"I guess ONSLAUGHT would argue their claim (no they can’t as their stuff was simply speed up Heavy Metal which is totally different songwritingwise – Laurent) but I think we were definitively the first. I remember a band from Scotland called RAIIS who were in the CELTIC FROST mode a little but I think we were there first – especially when you take into account where we came from, you would have expected us to have come from a big city or something. A lot had to with the tape trading as the bands we were into nobody had really heard and probably gave us a bump up the evolutionary chain in terms of what we were playing."
Mitch stayed close to you but what happened to the other guys after that split? Did they ever resurface in some other acts (besides Wayne who was involved with you again later on in AZAG-THOTH and with his own band MORBID JUDGEMENT)?
"Well at this time I started to visit Birmingham a lot just after we split, I saw Wayne and of course we got involved again with another band. I think Mike was with us for awhile, then as I went to Birmingham more often we kind of lost touch as we worked in different areas. I do see Wayne more often now though it’s a shame we lost touch for a long time."
Around that time (mid ’86) you and Mitch did that hobby thing, LOBSTER CLUB and released two rehearsal / demos, crossover stuff…
"Just me and Mitch bored in a village rehearsing our songs, like the idea of the CRAB SOCIETY (which featured Dan Lilker (ANTHRAX / NUCLEAR ASSAULT / S.O.D. / BRUTAL TRUTH… and Scott Ian (ANTHRAX / S.O.D.), we of course at this time were getting into all sorts musically and thought we would make a little tribute – hence forth "The lobster club" was born – the emphasis being on short songs with a wacky sense of humor."
Mitch joined SACRILEGE (U.K.) after WARHAMMER broke up in ’86 but it didn’t last long. Do you remember how he got the opportunity to join that somewhat popular (at least in the underground) act? Do you know why it didn’t work out at the end?
"I think Mitch had met up with a couple of the guys from SACRILEGE at the Mermaid which was a pub we all went to in Birmingham and was where I first experienced NAPALM DEATH. They had heard of WARHAMMER and asked him to go and try out as still at that time it was hard to meet people who were into the same sort of stuff. I am not sure why Mitch left in the end but I know he felt he didn’t have any creative input which he wanted, I guess he felt he was just a rhythm guitarist in the band and that disappointed him."
Not long after WARHAMMER was over, you and Mitch started UNSEEN TERROR with the clear intention to become U.K.’s answer to U.S. acts such as REPULSION, INSANITY and the likes. So at that point, what made you opt for that faster / heavier direction exactly? Would you say that the approach by those newer extreme U.S. acts was much closer to what you had always wanted to play?
"I think part of the reason those bands played the way they did was the same reason we did what we did – there was something happening in the movement at that time – a natural progression or urge to play faster. You had heard all the early Heavy Metal bands, you had heard VENOM, METALLICA and SLAYER… things were just getting started (and even now music seems to be getting crazier). It was what attracted us to it – not everybody felt this way and remained safe, we just wanted the crazy stuff and at that age as well we were just doing what felt really natural to us – it was something that was being shared with around the world – a constant search for new extremity!"
It didn’t take long before you spread a bunch of rehearsals around, showcasing UNSEEN TERROR material such as ‘Intestinal Infestation’, ‘Oblivion Descends’ (originally written by WARHAMMER) etc etc. So does that mean that being the tape trading addicts and die hard fanzine readers you were conscious of the impact that this type of recordings could do for younger upcoming acts unlike some bands who were popping up from nowhere without any underground basis?
"It seemed the right thing to be doing to send your tapes to fanzines as that’s how we had heard of some of our favorite new bands. It was really exciting and in those early days we became friends with a lot of great people. It was the best way for your band to become noticed I think, though I think in the early days a lot of the real great bands got over looked until much later."
By late ’86 / ’87, the U.K. Metal scene had developed in two branches, one that had what I would call false / uninspired / speedy Heavy Metal acts such as VIRUS, DELIVERANCE, ACID REIGN etc etc and the other one who had opted for a much more extreme approach, mostly crossover acts such as CONCRETE SOX, RIPCORD, NAPALM DEATH, UNSEEN TERROR, DOOM, EXTREME NOISE TERROR, ATAVISTIC, HERESY etc etc. How did you feel about the way U.K. music scene was developing at the time?
"It seemed that some of the bands that had been signed to me at least were old Punk bands who had jumped on the Death / Speed Metal bandwagon. I guess we along side those other bands you mentioned were more interested in moving forward and doing things a lot more uncompromising, plus at that time as most of the people were very young there was an anti-mainstream attitude which I think spawned some interesting styles…"
Back in early ’87 Mitch decided to start his own ‘zine with the goal to features the fastest / heaviest stuff around, Unrelenting Terror but it never became reality, were you involved into that as well?
"I got a few of the interviews for him – the REPULSION one and a few others, I can’t really remember to be honest, I think SACRIFICE was one as well – who knows why that didn’t come out."
In early 1987 or so you were joined by a bass player called Jez but he didn’t last long as it was said that he was a wimp, and you never found anybody else after that to replace him. Was it so hard to find the right guy with the same musical views at the time? I think you tried out Wayne Ashton as bassist at one point right?
"Jez was another friend of ours but his head wasn’t into what we were doing, he had a brief job at Heavy Metal Records in Wolverhampton and I think looking back on it we never forgave him for not getting us those old WITCHFINDER GENERAL picture discs (laughs)! Wayne played the only show we did as UNSEEN TERROR but it was very hard for us to find a bass player for some reason, I don’t know… me and Mitch seemed to click very well and it was always difficult to get that third person."
What about those two songs that were recorded early July ’87 and appeared later on that "Diminished Responsibility" compilation that was assembled by the Bailey brothers? It seems it was an intense studio session since HERESY (who featured also Mitch at that point) and ANTICHRIST recorded two songs each the same day? Were you happy with that first studio / vinyl appearance?
"I was happy but at that time though very nervous as I hadn’t really done much studio recording and the engineer at that studio always made you feel uncomfortable, I think the guitar sound came out better than the album – it was a fun weekend though."
Mitch’s involvement with HERESY in ’87 (replacing original guitarist Reevsy) was quite strong as they were touring quite alot. Did it interfere somewhat with the UNSEEN TERROR schedule back then? On the other hand would you say that playing with HERESY gave Mitch more confidence and maybe developed his skills as a guitarist?
"I think UNSEEN TERROR came to a halt really as Mitch was very busy with HERESY – I went on tour with those guys a few times in Europe so nothing much was happening and back in those days I don’t know how serious we really took it – though I think we did. It did give Mitch more confidence I think and I know he had a great time playing with HERESY – in the down periods we got some new stuff together – stuff we should really record one day."
How did Mitch end up being UNSEEN TERROR’s singer exactly? Does that mean that you were in the same situation as for the bass player meaning that you couldn’t find the right growler for the band?
"Pretty much – I guess looking back on it I could have had a go as I haven’t got that bad of a voice (more aggressive Hardcore though), but Mitch got the job. He was pretty nervous though on the album and I think you can tell, though people say it adds to the whole vibe of the album – we did find it hard to get the right people in the band. Mitch’s vocals were a hell of a lot better on the Peel session, really good."
Having mentioned ANTICHRIST, Mitch was part of that project also, were you part of it also? Wasn’t it envisaged to do a full ANTICHRIST album but somehow Dig (Pearson – Earache boss) didn’t show much interest at the end?
"It was an idea by a friend of ours called Jason L., he had this whole concept really – quite controversial I think. I did some backing vocals on the choruses – at the time again just something for the hell of it – I don’t think we knew why we did a lot of things – we had the opportunity to do it and we did it, fun was a big part of everything back then. Yeah there was meant to be a full album and one show only but it never really got off the ground, I think Jason lost interest as it took so long to get it realised."
Many people have certainly forgot that band, but by mid ’87 you joined Wayne Ashton’s newer band and Pete Giles (now in SCALPLOCK) on bass / vocals called AZAG-THOTH and a totally impressive five song demo was recorded late July, an effort very reminiscent of early POSSESSED and the likes. So how did that band was put together exactly? Who came up with that bandname which brings to mind right away Trey’s (of MORBID ANGEL) surname?
"Well the name was thought of by the bassist / singer Pete Giles. I think he had done a previous demo with some other guys though it didn’t sound anything like this demo. The fact it was the same as Trey’s stage name was pure coincidence I think. It was a fun project. I remember Wayne walking through the glass door of the studio at Rich Bitch and cutting his arm – luckily he was okay but it could have been dangerous – we played one show with that line up in London which I think was around the end of December 1988 (more probably 1987 I’d say – Laurent). I forget who with but it was pretty good but nerve wracking for me and Wayne as we didn’t rehearse that much as a band.".
How did it come that you ended working with Wayne again since he was more into the METALLICA type of writing, one of the reasons why you split with WARHAMMER?
"Well we were still good friends and of course where we lived it was a small town as I have said. I needed to be in a band and they needed a drummer – as simple as that. We did have some interesting new songs I remember but I was still pushing the speed as that was what I was really into, I guess in some ways in was very reminiscent of INSANITY, but more melodic."
It was obvious that AZAG-THOTH were ready for something bigger, at least recording a full album but the band never went any further, so how did the story of that once promising genius Death Metal act end up?
"You know I really can’t remember… I was touring a lot with NAPALM DEATH and that was my main priority, I believe that Pete was getting more and more into the crossover thing, I remember going to see him rehearse – I think maybe Wayne was still in the band – near where he lived, it was at this time the band was going to be called HARMONY AS ONE, I think he had found some people close to where he lived which helped."
Did you get asked in later years and even nowadays about this band and did you get offered to release the demo officially or do you see AZAG-THOTH as a completely buried and forgotten type of thing?
"Not really forgotten to me, but to be honest I never felt that part of it – to a point I did I suppose. I have the demo still in great quality, I was thinking of releasing it on vinyl which is something I would like to do with the WARHAMMER demo as well…"
Weren’t Mitch mentioned at one point to join AZAG-THOTH as well? At that point it looked like it was going around in one circle, people going from one band to another…
"Not that I can remember he may have been asked by Pete as that was often the case back in those days."
So do you remember when and how the offer to record an UNSEEN TERROR album for Earache came around? Were you familiar with the very first Earache releases (the early flexi 7"es)?
"I met Dig at the Mermaid on 22/3/1986 and he had heard of our band WARHAMMER, we were there to see NAPALM DEATH and HERESY so it was a great day. We obviously kept in touch and we sent him our UNSEEN TERROR rehearsal which he loved – and so did the HERESY guys… so much they asked Mitch to join the band. We spent many weekends around Dig’s house listening to records and eventually he asked us if we would record an album for his label which we agreed to. I used to help him package and send out many of the Earache releases to the kids who were buying that stuff at the time…"
So by September of ’87 you entered the Rich Bitch studio (used earlier by NAPALM DEATH, SACRILEGE…) to record your first effort, "Human Error", a 20 songs affair mixing pure Death Metal numbers à la REPULSION / MASTER and crossover tunes with Garfield the cat as main theme. So first of all, looking back, would you say that it was a good choice to mix these two styles which musically were quite distant one from the other? Also the record suffered from the sound, the somewhat bizarre drum sound particularly, did you have a hand in the production stages of the album or was it entirely done under the guidance of producer, Mike Ivory?
"I don’t think it was that good of an idea looking back to mix those styles but hey fuck it, we were young and it seemed like fun. We were definitively unexperienced with studio recording and you can tell by the sound though I have heard that that sound has been very influential to many Swedish Death Metal bands which I find bizarre… none of us really knew what we were doing and Mike Ivory – although he had done a good job with NAPALM DEATH on "Scum" – really fucked our record up by not taking it seriously, a trend he continued on the first CARCASS album… all in all a great experience which I know me and Mitch are still proud of."
Is there a particular area on that album where you think it should have done differently? I’m thinking of Mitch’s vocals which despite being okay were still not the strongest to fit the type of raging material you were writing?
"Again Mitch was nervous, if we did that album now it would sound way stronger – that’s why I keep bugging Mitch to do another one, we could tear it up nowadays. Yeah the vocals aren’t that strong but they are way better on the Peel session for sure… the whole thing could have sounded better really but there you go, many bands in the early days didn’t get the sound they were looking for."
Even if he didn’t do the bass tracks for the album as the timing was too short, Pete Giles joined the band and appeared on the band picture of the record (Mitch doing the bass lines) but he didn’t last long in UNSEEN TERROR either as it seems there was too much musical differences between the two of you guys and him, right?
"There was a lot of distance between us – we were never very lucky when it came to bass players, I think personally when Pete came down for UNSEEN TERROR he was more interested in AZAG-THOTH which is fair enough but it didn’t help us as we were trying to concentrate on our band, so I guess you could say things didn’t really work out!"
By late ’87 the U.K. extreme scene had grown considerably bigger with NAPALM DEATH having released their first album as well and being touted as one of the most influential new acts, HERESY were touring alot and expanding their name on a large basis in Europe etc etc and some new labels were appearing in the footsteps of Earache like Manic Ears or Peaceville. How did you feel about that? I mean did you feel like there was a new trend which was taking place or…?
"I didn’t really think that much about it, with NAPALM DEATH we recorded a couple of tracks with Manic Ears so there was definitively no competition there as far as I was concerned though some people took it upon themselves to start some (laughs)!! I always thought it was a good thing that other labels were starting up, though I guess if it went for Earache there would have been a less active scene, I don’t know."
During the Autumn of 1987 while UNSEEN TERROR remained your main priority (and you had just finished recording the album) you were asked to join NAPALM DEATH as their bassist. Do you remember how that all came about and does that mean that you had learnt to play bass or guitar in your earlier years?
"I guess I had picked up the basics as I was playing drums as well. I was initially asked to join the band after Justin (Broaderick) had left on guitar but I chickened out on that one and they got Frank Healey from SACRILEGE to play, he didn’t last long and then of course Bill (Steer) joined. I think I really regretted not doing the guitar thing so when they needed a bassplayer I jumped at the chance as I had already wrote some songs when I was asked as a guitarist."
Most NAPALM DEATH fans are probably unaware of at that point but you were one of the main persons who did spread NAPALM DEATH live tapes (and demos) around when the band was totally unknown and it probably started the big buzz before their first album was issued. Do you remember how you discovered the band in the very first place (especially since NAPALM DEATH were around since ’82 or so with a totally different line up) and hung up with their drummer Mick Harris?
"Well Mitch Dickinson came back from one of his many shopping trips in Birmingham and said to me that he had met this guy called Justin (Broaderick). Justin had come up to Mitch outside a record shop as he saw all the bands logos on Mitch’s back – the SIEGE one took his notice especially. Justin handed Mitch a flyer which was for the 22/3/86 show – so yeah anyway the first thing Mitch did was tell me as we were both big HERESY fans (Mitch more so) and they were on the bill as well. We went down to the show and were quite taken back – you have to remember we were young at this point and I had never really been to a Punk show – I was blown away. We soon met up with Justin and then a bit later Micky came over and taped me on the back – I think I had the words "Thrash till the death" on there and this seemed to make him laugh. We became good friends from that show onwards… NAPALM totally blew me away, it was the perfect combination for me really, the speed mixed with the crushing Metal riffs – awesome! After that we got to talking and we mentioned UNSEEN TERROR and that we had just become involved in a thing called the underground tape trading scene and this was probably a really good way to get your band known to more people across the world. This idea appealed to Nick (Bullen – NAPALM DEATH singer / bassist), Justin and Mick so shortly after Justin sent me the "From Enslavement" demo and it started from there… we ended getting more and more live tapes and trading them to as many people as we could."
It appeared quite soon that NAPALM DEATH’s heavy schedule (as the band was becoming bigger and bigger) didn’t give much room anymore to you to concentrate on UNSEEN TERROR. Looking back would you have changed something to help you having more time to expand UNSEEN TERROR which was originally your main concern?
"Not really as Mitch started to travel around Europe with HERESY and later went onto the states. I was happy doing NAPALM DEATH as it was what I had always wanted to do – touring, I guess I wasn’t that happy being stuck in a village and wanted to see the world. We found it increasingly harder to find a bass player so it was just me and Mitch – it just kind of fizzled out which is a shame but there you go. Me and Mitch are still the best of friends and who knows one of these days the second UNSEEN TERROR album may make an appearance."
By late ’87 as the album had just come out, it was announced that Mick Harris had joined UNSEEN TERROR as singer, so how did that come about? I mean you were obviously close to him but why did you decide to go for him as singer?
"Again one of those crazy things, the scene was so interwoven back then it just kind of happened, we wanted a more aggressive vocalist and thought Mick would do the job – plus his enthusiasm was always there. Looking back on that I think Mitch would have done a fine job on all the songs as he had improved a great deal since the first album."
But at the same time, according to what Mick told me, there was talks to have him singing earlier in ’87 but it seems Mitch wasn’t into the idea earlier on. If so, what changed his (your) mind(s)?
"Hmmm… I don’t know if I recall that as an idea – maybe as I can’t remember everything, he was definitively there for our only ever live show but that and the Peel session was as far as it went. I think with the first album neither me or Mitch were very confident, if we do the second album we are planning then both me and Mitch will handle vocals as we can both do it and are way more confident now. Mick may be right but I don’t know…"
The first rehearsals from 1988 featuring newer material showed clearly that speed had increased even more and Mick’s singing gave a somewhat bigger hardcore sound to some of the newer songs. Looking back, were you satisfied with the band’s somewhat newer sound?
"Again there was confusion I think in our direction – the ‘Voice Your Opinion’ track was the way to do sure but some of the new songs had that Hardcore edge still, which was cool but we really wanted to get back to the REPULSION influence, which we did just before we called it a day. Mitch has a rehearsal still of about ten songs that are ripping as hell, we should definitively re-record them."
By March 1988 you were invited to record a BBC session just like many newer U.K. Hardcore / crossover acts around back then. It was aired a couple of times and released a year later as a "Peel session" EP. Any memories of that session? How did you feel being part of those prestigious series?
"Well I had just done my second Peel session with NAPALM DEATH so to be back there again was an immense feeling for sure. A great thing though which some people don’t know is that the record label that put out the Peel sessions released a compilation album called "21 Years Of Alternative Radio" – it had Peel sessions from THE CURE, JIMI HENDRIX and stuff like that so being on that was insane for us. I remember every year on major tv they have these music awards and back then it was a little more brave, so they had John Peel on there for his five minutes and he was standing there with "Scum", "Human Error" and THE STUPIDS mini lp saying how much he loved these records at the moment, that was a unique experience as well."
Would you say that this particular recording captured the UNSEEN TERROR sound way better than the album…? Did you also notice somehow that it expanded UNSEEN TERROR’s popularity at that point?
"I don’t know whether it expanded our popularity that much but I guess it had more of a live sound which was heavier than the album we did for Earache, the drums were way better for sure, it would have been interesting to see where it would have gone from there."
Talking about the band’s popularity, do you know how many albums got sold approximatively? Did you notice while you were touring with NAPALM DEATH that alot of people still showed interest in UNSEEN TERROR over the years as it seems at least to me that UNSEEN TERROR got overshadowed by other acts such as CARCASS or others for some reasons and never got recognized the way it should have?
"Well I think the UNSEEN TERROR album in a way was perhaps ahead of its time, it was very diverse – I think too much. I know that Uffe (Cederlund) from ENTOMBED once told me that UNSEEN TERROR were a major influence on NIHILIST and Nicke (Andersson) said the same thing. It’s just something that happens, if we had made the second album it would have been more like it should have been, but there you go, we as people me and Mitch were constantly changing and the album reflects this I guess…"
Next and last thing that we heard from the UNSEEN TERROR camp was the fact that you did a show in Nottingham, U.K. in March ’88 with Wayne Aston standing as bassist for that one and only live show ever, how did that go? Did you get a good turnout that night and what was the overall reaction that night?
"That was a show with GOVERNMENT ISSUE and INTENSE DEGREE opening up, as shows back in those days went it was cool and I guess historical for us as that was the only show. I think some of the pictures from that show are on the "Human…" re-issue."
How do you explain that you never played any other shows as UNSEEN TERROR later on especially since NAPALM DEATH was playing live alot so I guess both bands could have played on the same bill quite easily?
"Me and Mitch were very rarely in the same place at the same time in those days I think and of course we had the problems of a bass player as we didn’t have a permanent one, which made things tough."
So what happened at that point with UNSEEN TERROR? Was it like a split or just the fact that NAPALM DEATH’s heavy schedule never gave you the opportunity to go any further as UNSEEN TERROR?
"It just faded, I was busy with NAPALM DEATH and Mitch was doing different stuff, he started traveling at that point as well and we lost touch with each other for a while actually, just one of those things…"
Can you tell us what Mitch did after UNSEEN TERROR? I mean I know that he became a soundman in the early 90s working with CANCER, NAPALM DEATH etc and also worked for Earache later on, right?
"He did a couple of long tours with the pop Punk band ALL, he did some stuff with CANCER as well as NAPALM DEATH. He started working for Earache around 1995 I think, this lasted for three years I believe and then he went to work for a recording studio not far from where Earache is situated."
Unlike all the other Earache releases which were all released on CD by ’89 or so, "Human Error" never got that treatment until ’91 or so when Relativity Records within its "Grindcrusher series" re-released that album on CD (but with a very poor packaging). How did you feel about the fact that Earache U.K. seemed to think that somehow UNSEEN TERROR weren’t a good selling band enough at the time to have the record re-released on CD?
"I never rally gave it any consideration, I knew why it didn’t get released and it didn’t bother me to be honest – things have a way of turning around on themselves."
Surprisingly last year Earache finally properly re-released this influential album with a cool booklet and bonus tracks. Did you have alot of involvement into this or was it mainly Mitch who dealt with that considering that your relations (as NAPALM DEATH at least) with Earache not seems to be the greatest these days?
"I let Mitch get on with things as I was busy, and I knew he would do it justice, it turned out well I think."
So according to what you recently told me there’s lots of chances that you’re gonna do a new UNSEEN TERROR album with Mitch so can you give me more details about this?
"Just a lot of talk, I have a track and at some point need to get my ass into gear and write some more. Mitch recently told me that he has some new songs so if we add them to what we have had for awhile I think we are there it’s just time and the right attitude now and I guess we will get it done. I think it will happen all of a sudden – it will surprise us both when it does."
Musicwise can we expect something close to the lines of "Human…" or something more "noisy" / extreme à la LOCK UP exactly?
"Well from the track that I wrote and what we have from the old rehearsal, it will be very much in the REPULSION / SLAYER vein."
Do you have an idea on which label this next release will be possibly issued and most of all, will you use other musicians on this recording or will it be centered around you and Mitch only?
"We have a friend of ours who is itching to play the bass on the album – a guy called Lee Barret. Lee started the Candlelight label (and was playing in DISGUST as well – Laurent) and pretty much discovered EMPEROR. We have always said that we would get him to play the bass. As for the label, we (NAPALM DEATH) are starting our own label so I would think that it would come out on that, we should be more experienced by then as well."
Is there already some talking about doing some shows following this new album even if it’s quite obvious that most of the new generation of extreme / Death Metal fans are not familiar with UNSEEN TERROR?
"God I don’t know, maybe – though I would think it unlikely, it’s hard to say, I mean we really have to get of our ass and do the album first I think – that’s gonna be the test think."
I’d like to know your views about the fact that the precursors in that type of music meaning REPULSION, INSANITY, ARCHENEMY or UNSEEN TERROR never got any real recognition – TERRORIZER being the only one having achieved to get some popularity to a certain extent – when in fact a few years after acts such as CANNIBAL CORPSE and the likes who play fast but without the same approach got accepted and recognized… how do you feel about that?
"I think TERRORIZER were lucky in the fact that Pete (Sandoval) had joined MORBID ANGEL and that Dig really pushed Jesse (Pintado) and Oscar (Garcia) to get down to Morrisound studios to record the album. As you know Dave (Vincent) was never a proper member of TERRORIZER… I think if Jesse and Oscar hadn’t made that trip then you wouldn’t have had the album… it’s hard to say… a great thing that it did happen really – the chances of them getting together again – who knows?! As for us as I said luck was against us and I think Scott (Carlson) would say the same about REPULSION, INSANITY unfortunately were on the verge of happening when their singer passed away – a total fuckin’ shame as they were awesome. ARCHENEMY… I think turned in to THE LATCH KEY KIDS didn’t they?! (maybe… I never got alot of info on ’em except they were from the Los Angeles area – Laurent) So I guess their brush with brutal Death Metal was done and they moved on. REPULSION will always get recognition to me as we cite them with NAPALM DEATH as one of our major influences – as much as I may have matured with my songwriting, the REPULSION style of riffing is always in there – the same with TERRORIZER, a lot of REPULSION influences in there so they still live!! Recognition – I don’t care that much about that anymore."
Would you say that UNSEEN TERROR had somewhat an influence on CANCER who appeared in the scene in ’88 or so and were from the Shropshire area as well (Mitch was also later seen acting as a soundman for ’em too) or even other bands?
"Well a couple of the CANCER boys were at the first WARHAMMER show and they became good friends of mine, I wouldn’t say that UNSEEN TERROR had an influence on them, I think me and Mitch did though as we were the only crazy bastards where we lived into that stuff and we turned them onto a lot of stuff they had never heard before – which at the time was unheard of… Laurent you have been there, there’s not much. On another note Carl (Stokes) did play bass for UNSEEN TERROR for a bit, he was a good bass player, very aggressive!"
Let’s cover the remaining NAPALM DEATH story now. ’88 saw the band touring Europe quite alot and releasing their second album "From Enslavement To Obliteration" and as you maybe remember, as a fan of the ’86 material, I always disliked the material that was written later on. Like the B side of "Scum" and the "From Enslavement To Obliteration" material because I couldn’t find anymore driving distinguishable riffs that could be found in the earlier NAPALM DEATH songs. ‘Siege Of Power’, ‘Instinct…’ being prime examples of the type of stuff I was always expecting from an "extreme" act. Super fast but with distinguishable / catchy riffs, something that I couldn’t find anymore in that ’87/ ’88 material as the newer songs sounded like a blur to me and too short. Looking back would you say that my point is somewhat valid because back then it was something that couldn’t be accepted as critic by Mick especially?
"Well when I heard the b-side of "Scum" that was always my point to be honest… it’s cool to have the fast stuff but the great thing about the early NAPALM DEATH was that it broke down into catchy slow riffs. Something I think we have achieved on the last couple of NAPALM DEATH albums especially – it’s cool to have those dimensions… I am totally proud of the "From Enslavement To Obliteration" album and I wouldn’t have changed anything on that record. It was just the way we evolved. Micky was always too interested in what his contempories thought of the band instead of what we wanted to do, that’s one of the reasons he left, he wanted to change the band into a more Industrial band and we didn’t want that – the "Harmony…" album had already got people stirred and we didn’t want to drift too far from what the band was about… you live and learn I guess. We are now more interested in doing stuff for ourselves and hopefully people will like it. When you are young it’s hard to accept criticism, you learn as you get older – you line 100 NAPALM DEATH fans up against the wall they are all gonna have different opinions – hopefully the band now represents musically all the best elements of NAPALM DEATH… (sure it does even if I believe that "Harmony…" & "Utopia.. " remain the top notch era of NAPALM DEATH – Laurent)"
This second album was issued as a limited edition on vinyl with a gatefold cover and bonus 7", was it an Earache idea and do you remember how many were pressed as it’s a collector item these days?
"I think it is a collectors item, it was our idea as we were into that whole record collector vibe, though we weren’t pretentious assholes to quote a POISON IDEA track (laughs)!!! I have no idea how many were pressed to be honest I would say 2000 maybe?"
More material was recorded / issued in ’89 like that split flexi with S.O.B. or that 7" titled "Live In Europe ’89" on Lee (Dorrian)’s newer label Rise Above, and the "Mentally Murdered" 12" (issued also as a 7"). What do you remember from those recordings which featured material in the same vein as "From Enslavement To Obliteration" as a whole even if some stuff on "Mentally…" sounded closer to the earlier stuff with longer songs and more distinguishability?
"Basically a blur is what I remember, the "Mentally…" 12" was a real step up for us in terms of production, we were totally getting into the Death Metal thing more and more (well at least me and Micky were) I had a fun time recording that, there was a bar next door so me and Lee would spend a lot of time in there drinking and complaining about things as it’s probably the case when we meet up now. The split EP with S.O.B. was written and recorded in about a week, it’s strange to hear those songs now as it’s a vague memory to be honest – always funny when someone at a show asks you to play them as well as we never ever played those songs live… The live EP was the first for Lee’s label and I think it’s quite rare now, the cover got messed up as it should have been the reverse… mad times they were…"t’s probably the case when we meet up now. The split EP with S.O.B. was written and recorded in about a week, it’s strange to hear those songs now as it’s a vague memory to be honest – always funny when someone at a show asks you to play them as well as we never ever played those songs live… The live EP was the first for Lee’s label and I think it’s quite rare now, the cover got messed up as it should have been the reverse… mad times they were…"t’s probably the case when we meet up now. The split EP with S.O.B. was written and recorded in about a week, it’s strange to hear those songs now as it’s a vague memory to be honest – always funny when someone at a show asks you to play them as well as we never ever played those songs live… The live EP was the first for Lee’s label and I think it’s quite rare now, the cover got messed up as it should have been the reverse… mad times they were…"
You had a big hand on the songwriting department but still it was a big departure from the UNSEEN TERROR material, so would you maybe say that the riffs were maybe somewhat in the similar vein but Bill’s guitar sound didn’t have the definition needed to let the riffs sounding the way they originally should have?
"Hmmm I don’t know I wrote a lot of the NAPALM DEATH songs on the bass up until the early nineties, since then I have developed into a fair guitar player. The whole guitar sound was very distorted back then, I think perhaps the riffs were more basic I suppose, Bill added his touch to it all as well."
In July ’89 you managed to play a bunch of shows in Japan, something which had never been achieved by any other foreign Thrash / Death act before from what I remember (just like it happened when you played South Africa in ’93 or so), how did you feel about that accomplishment? Was it also somewhat particular to play there as you were all big fans of Japanese hardcore / noisy acts such as EXECUTE, GAUZE, S.O.B. etc etc…?
"Yeah it was a big thing for us as we were totally into the Japan Hardcore scene and we played with some of the greats… S.O.B., DEATH SIDE, GAUZE, LIPCREAM, OUTO, NIGHTMARE, THE BOREDOMS… a great experience and of course a long time ago… the South African trip was a good time as well, we went to a lot of places well before it became mainstream to do so."
Talking about tastes, at that point if I remember well your tastes had turned towards different stuff than Metal such as industrial material and stuff and you seemed bored by what was going on in Metal, is that correct? Would you say Metal had reached a point where it was overcrowded and the excitement factor from the early 80s was gone?
"Everything musically has a snowball effect if you let it, I got into DAG NASTY and 7 SECONDS in the late 80s and when those guys became more melodic you find you get into other things. The whole Industrial thing happened in the early nineties and I got into that as some of it reminded me of the SWANS. I think what a lot of people fail to realise about NAPALM DEATH we have always been listening to lots of different types of music. After the early shows we would come back in the van listening to KILLING JOKE or the COCTEAU TWINS, we were always searching for something challenging musically whatever the style. I guess I moved on for a time, other bands became more interesting, though I have to say I have come full circle now, I think. I always loved my classic stuff though just didn’t feel the need to go on about as much for a time, they were different times."
At that point NAPALM DEATH had reached a peak in its popularity to the point that there was TV reports on the band (who apparently did some harm to the band later on). How did you feel about that as a whole? I mean did you ever expect that you would reach that peak considering the extreme nature of the music played by the band?
"We were pretty young when all this was happening and we didn’t really take it all in, we just thought it was funny, especially when people you would meet on the street used to get upset because we were getting more air time on documentaries than say GUNS ‘N’ ROSES – we just laughed – people find it hard to accept new extremes… well some people do. It’s true we never really thought that we would get that popular, as I said we were too young to comprehend just what was happening."
To the surprise of many people, Bill and Lee left the band after that Japan tour, the former to concentrate on CARCASS while the other shortly after formed CATHEDRAL whose musical nature was far removed to what NAPALM DEATH were all about. How can it be explained that Lee decided to move towards something radically different? What happened exactly that could explain that fracture in the band?
"Wow! Taking me back here… me and Lee had always talked about doing a band in the vein of WAR CRY that whole Doomy stuff so it didn’t surprise me when he formed CATHEDRAL. I think the band split because we were young, certain things had happened between us which really bent Lee out of shape and I think it still pisses him off today – though we have remained good friends. Me and Mick were like a pair of idiots at times… things would be said without any consideration of the consequences – this happened between me and Mick as well. Also a lot of typical band stuff – we came from different parts of the country – when I think back it’s amazing really that the line up lasted that long as there was a lot of childish shit going on, me and Lee would sit up and talk about it for hours. I think Bill made a great effort traveling down from Liverpool to rehearse and I don’t know whether he got the right recognition from the band for it – his heart was in CARCASS and that’s where he went. My heart was in NAPALM DEATH and that’s why I stayed…"
Did you immediately think of getting Jesse (who wasn’t doing much with TERRORIZER) as guitarist and Barney Greenway (from BENEDICTION) as singer or did you think of other possible candidates at that point? Was it easy to get those two guys in the band as they were NAPALM DEATH fans and both bands were already in touch?
"Barney was pretty much an immediate choice as he was a big NAPALM DEATH fan and we had played some shows together, the guitar position was more difficult, I think Rick Rozz (DEATH / MASSACRE) was considered at some point but that was never a reality. Me and Jesse had been in contact for a time so it seemed natural to ask him as he wasn’t doing much with TERRORIZER – he was nervous at first but a good choice I think."
Would you say that for you it was more or less "a dream to come true" when you got Jesse in the band as you were a huge TERRORIZER fan at the time and you knew that he was like "a dream guitarist" for any band considering the type of destructive riffs he was writing?
"Yeah I was a huge fan of the band, he fit in really well, we were just lucky enough to have had the opportunity to get him over – quite a big thing if you think about it at the time as the distance was insane, and I think at that time he had never really been outside of the states."
If I’m correct, just two or three weeks after the new line up was finalized you were part of the U.K.’s Grindcrusher tour with MORBID ANGEL (who were doing their first European trip), BOLT THROWER and CARCASS also on the bill. What do you remember from that tour considering that the line up was brand new and that you were playing quite somewhat big places (which never happened later on if I’m correct)?
"We have played much bigger places than that over the years, but that was the first time any of us had experienced those kind of venues, I think it’s a testament to how big the Grind / Death scene was back in those days. For the most part it was a pretty smooth tour, Mitch Harris was with us on the bus as well as he had come over to join but hadn’t had time to learn the riffs – a weird experience. I remember the first show with the new line up was shit as Jesse was a little stoned – first gig thing – so that was a nightmare, we quickly recovered for the next show… I think it took us a long time to totally focus on what we were doing as a new line up."
I remember that the day after the last show of that short tour (London) you were playing the (in)famous CBGB’S club in New York and the day after the Streets club in New Rochelle, NY. Wasn’t a bit hard for you guys to play there as such short notice? How was it like playing for the first time in the states?
"The show had been organised for a long time so we knew about it way before. We went on stage really late I remember and Micky got mad at one of the bands – BLIND IDIOT GOD they were called. We had a good time and it was my first time in the states so it was immense. We also organised a show while we were there with IMMOLATION and REVENANT which went really well, that was where I first met King Fowley of DECEASED."
Two weeks later the Grindcrusher tour returned for the second part but this time on the continent visiting a few countries with MORBID ANGEL as support, so as a whole including your previous U.K. stint, how did the crowd welcome the "new" NAPALM DEATH considering that the band sound was definitively much cleaner / precise and Barney’s vocals were more deathly?
"Overall the reaction was great, very nervous at first as people didn’t know about the new line up as the press back then was a lot different to how it is now, but I was pleased with how it all went and it definitively gave us inspiration to carry on."
Do you remember what happened EXACTLY at that time as the show from that tour in Paris, France was cancelled at the very last minute, some members of both bands showed up at the club in Paris but didn’t play?
"The tour agency didn’t have visas for Pete and Jesse, that’s the reason, I am not entirely sure why we turned up in the end as we couldn’t play – all in all a weird situation."
If I’m correct with the historical side of things, early 90 saw Mitch Harris (ex – RIGHTEOUS PIGS guitarist who had previously already worked with Mick for the DEFECATION side project) was recruited as second guitarist. How did that idea to get two guitarists in the band come up? Was it easy to have Mitch joining the band as he was present on the Grindcrusher tour but as a spectator?
"He was here already as we had problems getting Jesse in the country, Mitch was asked to come over, in the end we ended up with two guitarists which is something we had wanted for a long time, it worked out in the end – Mitch wanted to play on the European tour but didn’t have the chance to rehearse with us."
Did you get help or support from the label or whatever to help out those guys considering the big move those guys had to do?
"Obviously Earache paid for the flights in the first place, but they came out of our royalties eventually."
It seems the next album "Harmony Corruption" was somewhat "easy" to write since you entered the studio in April ’90. Was the fact that the band line up was almost all brand new injected a huge dose a creativity or do you consider that this short time of writing was totally natural and usual?
"Well most of the music was written by Micky and me, with a song each from Jesse and Mitch. One of the songs from Mick ‘Unfit Earth’ goes back to the "From Enslavement To Obliteration" days but we didn’t get a chance to put that one in. I think at this time the band was still finding its feet really – all in all though it did feel like a new band."
So the band used the facilities of the Morisound studios with Scott Burns as producer who had started to make a name for himself (but couldn’t be labeled as "trendy" yet as it happened sometime later), as it seems you had been impressed in the first place by the sound he had given to DEATH’s second opus and while the result was brilliant as every instrument was coming out clearly in the mix, you still received critics from some people who didn’t like it as a whole. How do you view this recording period nowadays? Would you do it differently now?
"I doubt we would. It was a brave move in some ways but a good one – we followed our heart which is all you can do. Some people said that we had totally changed our writing style but that’s bollox, as if this album had say the production of "Mentally…" it wouldn’t have been so noticeable. I had a great time doing this album."
With this recording the band sounded much closer to Death Metal than before certainly due to the shaper guitar sound, less noisy structures and much more Death Metal influenced singing. Did you get a lot of harm for that different sound and did you feel like a portion of people turned their back on you, not maybe only because of the approach of that new release but simply because to them it wasn’t with Bill and Lee anymore so it wasn’t the real NAPALM DEATH?
"Yeah there was a backlash and we were young at the time as well so it kind of stung at times, but you know that album is one of our biggest records so we obviously did something right… as I said before all you can do is follow your heart. NAPALM were always being criticized for stuff, just because the first two albums came out on CD back in the day that was perceived as a crime. I am sure the fact that Lee and Bill went out of the band had an impact as well, I think some people were surprised that the band managed to carry on – which is something we have done for a long time. I think that’s a testament to our passion really!"
While you were there you had the opportunity to play a show (your third in the USA ever in fact) in St Petersburgh, FL with NOCTURNUS / ATHEIST as support and it seems you had forged a strong relationship at that point with the majority of the Floridian acts to the point that you dedicated the "Mass Appeal Madness" 12" to the great late Roger Patterson…
"Well he was really a cool guy that I think Mick had been writing to at the time and when we played the show with those guys we had a lot of fun hanging out. We were very sad when we heard of his death and thought that would be a good gesture as he was a massive NAPALM DEATH fan. Yeah when we were in Florida we hung out with all our favourite bands from that area – a really great time we had!"
Within a few days after you embarked for some dates in Brazil – a country where you were venturing for the first time and known for the hungry Metal fans – followed by some dates in U.K. where the Salisbury one was filmed to be released sometime later as an official video "Live Corruption" and parts used for the video of the newly released single "Suffer The Children", was it a company idea to film a gig or did you think that it was the right timing to offer to the fans a video?
"As for the video, we really didn’t even think too much about it, we were young and found the whole experience exciting – when shit like this happens to you for the first time it’s a great experience. I guess all this stuff happened at the right time as it usually does. Brazil was great also as we were big fans of SEPULTURA and it was great to meet Max (Cavalera). They were getting a lot of shit as well at the time in their home country for supposedly selling out and he said ‘We’ll show you we will bring one of the craziest bands around down here to play with us’… that was a great thing to do at that time I think as nobody of our style had played down there!"
Talking about singles, there was once again not just one vinyl 7" version of "Suffer.." but two featuring a slightly difference in the track listing (so minimal that probably alot of people never noticed that there was two different singles), so were all those singles issued on purpose because you were fans of the good old vinyls and wanted to offer the fans that format and not just the CD because previous to (and even after) every NAPALM DEATH release, they were released on different formats, as vinyl support goes, limited editions, 12", 7" etc…?
"We were vinyl fans totally and I think back then it seemed a good idea, it was something that we were fans of and still are, I like all that collectible stuff."
After a show (the very first in France ever!) that you surprisingly played very close to yours truly, you started a two months European jaunt (with PROTECTOR and others as guest), and some more bootlegs featuring shows from that tour were issued, completing the already quite impressive list of NAPALM DEATH bootlegs around (and more had to be released in ’91 and ’92), what are your position concerning bootlegs but also towards people who record your shows for tape trading in general?
"Doesn’t really bother us, I guess with a band at our level in some ways it helps get the word around… you can’t really stop it and I used to trade tapes obsessively so what the hell!"
Early ’91 was spent writing and recording a new 12" "Mass Appeal Madness" but this time you stayed in the U.K. to record that four tracker. Does that mean that with the passing of time you weren’t certain anymore that the sound that Scott had given you was the right one for NAPALM DEATH as "Mass…" sounded rawer / less polished or was it also an economical choice?
"We were pretty anal about what we did and didn’t do back then and I think even though "Harmony…" had done killer we really wanted that rawer sound back, also Mitch and Jesse were getting more vocal about what they thought the band should sound like as well so we just went in to record the EP and it turned out that way – a fluke probably, as most of this recordings can never be planned they just happen – that’s the great magic of recording quickly, sometime you manage to capture something unique. I think we are a band that has never really stayed in the same area too long. Maybe we had short attention spans back then or took opinions to much to heart – whatever it made a great record so who’s to complain."
Shortly after, by late March you embarked on your first U.S. tour ever with GODFLESH and NOCTURNUS as guests for two months covering the States entirely. What do you remember from that first U.S. jaunt? Did the U.S. crowds seem familiar with NAPALM DEATH and were they as receptive as the European crowds as a whole?
"Yeah they were into it but in a different way from the European crowds. The way they reacted to the music varied from state to state, Mitch and Jesse of course were not surprised by this but me, Mick and Barney were like ‘ What’s all this moving around in a circle thing?!’. We weren’t used to seeing that – in Europe they thrashed a lot more violently I guess… I think the Los Angeles show stands out as being the craziest we did on that tour – very insane!!! It was great to finally meet some of the people I had been writing to years before, it all sort of went by in a blur!"
When you were back from that tour and as you were preparing for another important U.S. tour, Mick parted ways with the band suddenly – and he was seen later involved into a totally different sounding outfit called SCORN. Looking back, how do you analyze that departure from the last "original" member (well not a member since the very beginning but he managed to transform NAPALM DEATH from a garage band into a worldwide recognized outfit as soon as he joined you) and his turn towards a totally different style of music ignoring his previous love for Metal?
"Micky was always a very spontaneous kind of guy so it didn’t surprise me that he wanted to do something different, he never came from a Metal background like we did so the experimental stuff was probably another part of his transformation. The rest of us at this time were very focused in how we wanted the band to develop so I guess in some ways he was the odd one out. I had noticed his change a bit when we did the "Mass…" 12". I also think at this time his girlfriend was pregnant and this had a major influence on his decision to leave the band, I guess a lot was going through his head back then, I actually thought he was gonna join GODFLESH!"
Was it hard for the band and you in particular since you had known Mick for so long to see him leaving the band? Did you part ways with him on good note by the way, did you see / talk to him again later on and what’s his opinion on the later NAPALM DEATH releases?
"I guess we did part on good terms but I think he thought the band would fold after he left. I think the thing with NAPALM DEATH is the band as a whole is a lot more powerful than individual members, but at the same time as long as the music stayed true we were fine I suppose… I have recently seen him a few times as he was gonna play drums for a project of mine but it didn’t work out. I know he has checked out the last couple of NAPALM DEATH albums and has made great comments on Danny’s drumming which made Danny happy as he was a big fan of Micky!"
So after playing some festivals in Europe early July ’91, you started that famous U.S. tour along with SEPULTURA, SACRED REICH and SICK OF IT ALL at a time Thrash and crossover / hardcore Metal was still at its height with new drummer Danny Hererra. Did you immediately go for Danny as he was a friend of Jesse from his TERRORIZER days or did you try other drummers before?
"No we immediately went for Danny as Jesse said he was the man and Jesse’s word was fine by us… that simple…"
Would you say that this U.S. tour expanded NAPALM DEATH’s audience as a whole considering the amazing bill or did you play more or less the same places that you had hit on the previous tour with the same attendances?
"No we played bigger places but in places like Los Angeles I think we were probably as popular back then as SEPULTURA, it was great of Max to put us on the bill really as I know there was pressure to take someone else out so it was totally cool of him… but yes it did us a lot of good out there I think."
Was it easy for all of you guys to deal with that long touring experience from ’90/’91 especially for Danny or even for Barney, Mitch or Jesse who were still quite new in that business?
"It was all new to us and we were very hungry to play and have fun and meet people and all the good stuff you associate with touring – we handled it pretty well in fact, we were all in our early twenties as well back then though it was easy… long tours take there toll a lot more these days, of course we were sharing with bands that made it possible to tour comfortably and that help."
If I’m correct the band ventured in Russia late ’91 or so which next to ARTILLERY made of NAPALM DEATH the first thrashing / extreme act to play there. Do you remember how it was like and how do you explain that NAPALM DEATH always been like precursors in playing those special territories (just like Japan before or South Africa later)?
"I just remember it being very cold, the hall was massive, we played two shows there and there were so many lights you couldn’t see the crowd and you forgot that you were playing in front of 7.000 people – it was a weird time and I don’t think I took in as much as I should have… I remember coming back with a lot of Russian army clothes as they traded them for Levi jeans – bizarre!"
Late ’91 saw the band touring in Europe (with REVENANT as support) a bit more followed by those first Christmas festivals and it was time to re-enter the studio for a new album, but early ’92 saw the release of some new NAPALM DEATH releases, the "Death Of Manipulation" LP which featured stuff from different previous 7"es etc and a CD box featuring four CDs which included the "Live Corruption" CD. Did you have anything to say about those somewhat "cash in" releases or was it once again an idea from Earache especially since the box was supposed to contain the upcoming newer album "Utopia Banished" but didn’t at the end?
"I guess the mini albums and stuff had never really come out in the states and this was the label’s way of rectifying that… yeah I guess in some ways it’s a cash in but at the same time I think they were mistakes due to label inexperience – especially with the box set, that was kind of fucked."
So "Utopia" (and a bit later "World…" as a 12") were released by April / May ’92 once again featuring a savage ripping mixture of Death / Hardcore Metal but still a bit less Death Metal orientated than the previous effort, something closer to the "Scum" side A material. Would you say that it was a natural orientation or something where you feel you had to come back to your previous approach?
"I don’t think it ressembled the "Scum" era at all actually… obviously it was fast but the riffs were very Death Metal influenced and mixed up with the Hardcore sound as well… back then people just heard the beats and didn’t really hear the riffs I think – I could be wrong but that’s the impression I got at the time… it was quite a technical album I think when you compare it to "Harmony…". The riffs were far crazy and there was nothing like that on "Scum"!!! We progressed musically I think but we felt that we wanted a harder sound than on "Harmony…" something closer to the "Mass Appeal…" sound I think."
"Utopia.." seemed to be extremely well received by the fans and press in general, making of this release maybe your biggest one at that point. Do you share that opinion and what do you think of that album looking back?
"Good memories really as after that period, as people, we drifted apart a bit I think in our tastes – weird I guess… of course it was Danny’s first album and he was really happy with the whole thing… It’s strange looking back on that whole period really – again we were so young. I do think we toured the album way before people had a chance to digest the record… if we had waited a time maybe the follow up album would have been different – who can tell."
I have always noticed that Danny was never credited in the songwriting credits, does that mean that when one of you (Shane, Mitch or Jesse) write a song, you already have the drum part written as well (something certainly easy to do for you Shane especially) or…?
"I guess we really just credit who writes the lyrics or music… Danny comes up with beats of course but sometime we tend to point him in the direction as well. The difference with Mick was of course that he wrote riffs for NAPALM DEATH or I guess he would never have been credited neither had he not done that. No big deal at the end of the day as when it comes to royalties and stuff we split everything equally!"
On those last pair of albums especially, there was riffs borrowed from REPULSION, CELTIC FROST or others. Was it done on "purpose" or was it more or less unconscious and was the result of your influences? Did you ever get that point noticed by journalists or fans?
"Well I don’t know about borrowed, they certainly aren’t the same riffs – similar perhaps but not the same. Of course those bands were the influence, just as the bands that influenced us had theirs as well… there probably isn’t a band around that didn’t rip off a riff from time to time… when it comes down to the sound that we have it’s still a very different thing… then again I joked with Scott Carlson the other day that when the new UNSEEN TERROR album comes out I will probably give all my publishing royalties to him as the riffs I have written have that same vibe as the "Horrified" album… he of course just laughed."
Before embarking on the European tour supporting this release, you did a new BBC session, which was probably the fourth or fifth one you did for ’em as NAPALM DEATH, quite a surprising feat for a band as extreme as NAPALM DEATH for the type of radio it is?!
"That was our third one and last Peel session unfortunately. John Peel was a massive help to us in the early days and still supports the band now which is killer. Looking back on all of those sessions they were all a great time."
So with DISMEMBER and OBITUARY you toured Europe extensively mid ’92, appearing in various festivals, doing TV interviews and stuff followed by a U.S. tour with CARCASS, CATHEDRAL and BRUTAL TRUTH. Would you say that this period with this album was somehow NAPALM DEATH’s peak of popularity? Do you have an idea about the sales of that particular album comparing to the previous and next ones?
"Yeah I guess we were peaking at that point. As for sales I have seen too many conflicting ones and I guess to be honest I will never really know which is shit! After this period of time more and more bands appeared and now it’s a very competitive scene… it’s a lot different now really!"
Did you feel great to be included in the all ‘n’ out Death Metal category considering that NAPALM DEATH doesn’t really stick to that category or any particular category in fact?
"Categories don’t really interest me, I think that’s maybe part of our appeal, I love all extreme music… we have played with a lot of diverse bands over the years and that’s a good thing, a broader scope!"
How did you feel having Mitch (Dickinson) as soundman for that tour?
"It was fun and of course made touring that little bit crazier as we were like kids again messing around all the time and I know the rest of the guys really liked it!"
One thing I’m thinking right now, did you think at one time during that tour or during the previous ones for "Harmony.." to do a TERRORIZER or a RIGHTEOUS PIGS cover just like MORBID ANGEL did on some of their ’90 tours?
"No, I think one show in the states my guitar broke and the guys did ‘Dead Shall Rise’ but that’s about it I think… we should maybe do a cover of all our own bands – who knows!"
Talking about covers, that tour saw the inclusion of ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’, a cover from the DEAD KENNEDYS. Why did you choose that particular one?
"That song originally appeared on a DEAD KENNEDYS’ compilation and was chosen for us by Billy Gould from FAITH NO MORE. The song just kind of stuck with us over the years and we released it as a benefit single – I guess it’s become one of our trademarks."
Were you living out of the income you were getting from NAPALM DEATH at that point considering that I believe that the band were Earache biggest sellers along with MORBID ANGEL and what about today considering that you had a loss of popularity later on?
"I got by on my music back then and I do now."
Talking about income / sales, by 1992 Earache had managed to get a distribution deal with Sony for the States which didn’t last for long at the end. How did you feel about that because it obviously gave more exposure to the band but at the same time a bit of contradiction with your lyrical approach considering that Sony are a huge company?
"That deal came through Earache and was just in the states, we didn’t have much say in the matter as it was a license deal, but it was an experience and also a lesson to some of the bands that majors most of the time don’t have a clue about this kind of music. We survived the whole affair which is a good thing when you think of what the company did to CARCASS!!!"
It seems that despite this huge deal, none of the bands signed on the rooster received any real support out of this, right?
"Something like that…"
Were you interested in what was going on in U.K. musicwise at that point with newer extreme Death Metal acts coming out mainly, but also of course all that Black Metal wave which included CRADLE OF FILTH before they were hyped etc. How did you feel as an individual and as a band inside that music scene?
"I guess to be honest I never really paid too much attention to all of that scene till much later… Dan Lilker played me EMPEROR and I liked them, also MAYHEM but the album he played me sounded different to the one I remembered back in the day as those guys used to come and visit us with Metallion (Slayer Mag) back in the day but I never really heard CRADLE until much later. I then found out that a mate of mine, Nick Barker, was in the band and we became better friends around 1998… but at the time all of this was happening I guess I was veering off into different stuff so didn’t pay too much attention – which I think was maybe a catch 22 situation!"
Having been in the scene since the beginning, having seen a trend coming one after one, Thrash Metal having killed Heavy / Power Metal in the mid ’80s, Death Metal killing Thrash Metal at the end of the ’80s, Black Metal having killed Death Metal in the early ’90s (not forgetting Grunge having annihilated Metal more or less) and then nu crappy shit becoming the last trend, what’s your view on that situation as a fan and as a musician?
"I think that a lot of the older stuff is coming back to be honest and I think all the newer trends will have their time as well, I guess what I have learned is you have to stick to your guns and not give up, sooner or later things change. Right now is a great time for extreme Metal I think and it’s gonna be interesting to see what bands come out as it’s getting faster and crazier!!!"
If my memory doesn’t betray me, you and Mitch did that MEATHOOK SEED project with some OBITUARY members and you also had that project going on with Lou from SICK OF IT ALL, BLOOD FROM THE SOUL which happened in ’92 / ’93…
"I like recording projects with people or just myself, I like to keep busy and explore different kinds of styles as well as I listen to a lot of different stuff – sometimes the music can be similar as well it’s just enthusiasm from other people I feed off and really a lot of the time it’s to please myself. When you meet like minded people it’s inevitable that you will talk about recording stuff together, for there’s gonna be a lot more of that on the horizon – it keeps life interesting and opens up new doors, which is a good thing."
1993 was also spent writing / recording the next album "Fear, Emptiness Despair" issued in ’94 and it was clear from the opening track that the band had incorporated some different elements, industrial or whatever and as a result, I had mixed feelings about this album as I found most of the stuff quite boring and not as exciting as before as I think the riffs weren’t as catchy as before except ‘Remain Nameless’ which has a major killer riff in the middle and ‘Throwaway’ which simply reminds us of the classic NAPALM DEATH / TERRORIZER stuff and it seems quite a few people were surprised / disappointed by that newer approach. How do you view this album eight years later?
"Some people were surprised, to me all that shit makes me laugh as really all we did was concentrate on the more mid paced elements of the band – sure we threw in some noise parts, but for some of the band that’s what we wanted to do, it worked… a lot of NAPALM DEATH fans love that album, a lot hate it!!! What can I tell you?! We could have played it safe and just wrote another "Utopia…" record but to be honest I wasn’t feeling that and neither were some of the other guys in the band. We are still here to look back at that album and that’s a god thing. Did it work, didn’t it work?! Who’s to say! But some of that experience definitively influenced our approach on later albums and more so with the styles we play now. If anything it was a brave move for us as at that time, the scene was overpopulated with Death Metal bands and the new Black Metal scene was exploding… I guess we wanted to do something different for us… you can’t please everyone… It was actually one of our bigger albums saleswise though!"
How about the touring aspect for that album? It seems you’ve played the same places as before as a whole while somehow we could have expect to see NAPALM DEATH playing more theaters, semi big sized places considering the success of "Utopia…"
"I think we have been playing the same places for as long as I remember, even now when the band does less than we used to we still play the same places, what does that tell you?! I think at one point especially in Los Angeles there was a massive show, but you get used to the same shows really, as long as they are packed with people then it’s cool. I think it would have been nice at that point to get a tour with a bigger band but unfortunately that never happened. This sounds cocky but I don’t think many bands wanted NAPALM DEATH opening up for them, too much of a hard act to follow!"
Then came the 12" "Greed Killing" and I believe it’s when in my opinion NAPALM DEATH went out of the rails – at least for those who expected fast / catchy / ripping / effective material – followed by "Diatribes", "Words From The Exit Wound"… and I gave up on the band with all those releases. As a music fan speakingwise, do you really feel like those releases belonged to the bandname as they were so far removed to the previous songwriting style for most of the material?
"We as a band can do whatever we want, when we play those tracks live some of the oldschool fans get into it, some don’t… we made new fans that in turn got into the older stuff, and that opened their eyes… again maybe a bad move but we are still here when a lot of bands who carried on with the same shit are not. Obviously everybody has the right to say what they want, again if you listen to ‘Anti-body’ or ‘All Links Severed’ that’s prime NAPALM DEATH, it definitively makes a good discussion point (sure and I even changed my opinion on those albums, thanks to the recent "Noise For Music’s Sake" DCD! – Laurent). We had great tours with that album and the one after that. Some fans are only just getting their heads around some of those records… I find it weird in some ways as the original NAPALM DEATH was a far less aggressive band then what it became on "Scum"… I stand by everything we have ever done as to not would be false and that’s something I am most certainly not!"
The mid 90s saw Barney leaving the band to join EXTREME NOISE TERROR while EXTREME NOISE TERROR singer Phil Vane joined NAPALM DEATH, having only followed from a distant view what was going on in the NAPALM DEATH camp, what happened with Barney exactly?
"Well this point is always a funny one, we actually kicked Barney out of the band, he didn’t leave, a strange time indeed for the band. I think he may have told the German press that he had left but it was the other way around – not that it matters but anyway. Barney wasn’t really into what we were doing as a band at that point and wasn’t really into touring… something he had battled with since 1993 and still does to this day… we wanted someone who did want to do all these things… in some ways being in a band is like being in a marriage… you forget how to communicate and that’s where the problem began. We are a lot better at that now than we used to be as we are older but anyway we thought the solution was to fire him from the band – maybe not the greatest decision. The track on the split EP actually is with Barney and is a song left over from the "Diatribes" sessions, that was down to Earache being crap with their press as usual and adding more confusion. Anyway to cut a long story short it didn’t work out with Phil, it gave us the time to work on the album we were doing and have some space from Barney. When we came to recording the vox on the "Inside The Torn Apart" it just didn’t sound the same as Barney, so I made the call and asked him if he wanted to come back into the band and he said ‘yeah why not?!’, I guess he had missed the whole thing somewhat and said ‘let’s give it another go, let’s all try to be a little more straight up in future’. Of course the weird thing was that Barney had sung on the EXTREME NOISE TERROR album as well so that all confused the situation a lot more but whatever – chaos is a great place to be!"
Did you go immediately with Phil or did you try some other people with a different vocal range?
"Pretty much immediately in true NAPALM fashion!"
The last album issued with what I would call "the other NAPALM DEATH sound / songwriting" was "Words From The Exit Wound" in the late 90s and according to an interview that I read with Dig Pearson, the album flopped and he lost a bunch of money with it which as a result saw NAPALM DEATH leaving Earache, which means if that’s true then NAPALM DEATH had lost a bunch of fans at that point, what’s your views about all that period?
"Well at that point we were at the end of our tolerance with Earache and yes I guess you could say the album didn’t do well but ironically, we had one more album to go with Earache at that point, we had new management and we were trying to get a better deal for our final album which of course Digby wasn’t into. We toured the album in the states, Earache did absolutely nothing to promote the album, the tour, we did went really well. Lots of people and we played some great shows – San Francisco with the MELVINS and NEUROSIS was a great one. Everywhere we went our fans said ‘Where is the new album? We can’t find it!’, the budget I believe for the American promotion was $1000, which is lame really, in my opinion I am not surprised the album didn’t do so well in America when no one knows it’s out. In Europe it did about 30,000 copies which is respectable… I almost think that Earache wanted the album to flop so they could get the final album from us for nothing… I could say more but won’t, judging from the posts I read on the NAPALM DEATH site many consider that album underated!!!"
"Bootlegged In Japan" was the next release, would you say that this record representated much better what the band was all about live than the"Live Corruption" CD? Why did you choose Japan as the recording place by the way?
"We came across the recording by accident actually as someone had put a dat cassette in, unknown to us. We just thought why not, originally I wanted the packaging on the CD to be better but the story there was the same… it’s definitely angry and represents the band live. It just happened to be Japan!!!"
In 2000 when I heard that the band was going to issue a CD full of covers from bands that had influenced the band, my interest towards NAPALM DEATH rose up right away suddenly and "Leaders Not Followers" from the title to the music couldn’t disappoint any old fan anymore as it was clear to us that it was like a statement saying "We’re back full force!"
"Well things come around full circle, we were suddenly working with new people who had genuine enthusiasm for what we were doing and we thought the best way to start this was to record some classics. It went down really well and after that of course we did the "Enemy…" album which seemed to please new and old fans. We have tried to take something from all our records but obviously do what we do best… to me now seems a good time again and we are more into playing aggressive than we have been for a long time – there have been lots of things to influence this decision but I think it makes sense!!! (sure it does – Laurent) As I said things come around in full circle… we have just finished a full length covers album and that should be out there early next year… all I can predict is the unpredictable… with NAPALM DEATH you never really know what’s around the corner… that’s kind of exciting I think!"
So "Leaders Not Followers" was issued on a new label, Dream Catcher in Europe and Relapse in the States. Was it hard to choose which cover would end up on this? What made you go with Dream Catcher after Earache? Was it mainly due to the fact that Martin Hooker knew his shit real bad when it comes to promote acts as he was coming from Music For Nations?
“I think we went with him as our new manager knew him really well and also he had released a lot of the music I had listened to growing up so we thought it made sense! Really the idea of this mini album was more of a spontaneous thing to get us back into the swing swings, it seemed the most sensible thing to tackle right away… as it was only one song each it wasn’t too hard to decide which tracks as with the SLAUGHTER track I had wanted to cover that song for ages!”
Can you tell us why you choose those particular bands which appeared on this recording and what effect they did have on NAPALM DEATH over the years? Same for the upcoming part two of "Leaders…"
"Basically as I said with the SLAUGHTER cover it was a song that I had wanted to do for ages and the same applies with the other tracks we did on the mini… With part two the choice was much harder as we had a lot of tracks to choose from, we only managed to record 19 but all of the tracks pretty much forged our youth and inspired our writing styles… and also very good fun.”
Considering that this part two of "Leaders…" will be a full album, do you consider to maybe cover those tunes in a live situation following the release of this or will this stay strictly a studio thing?
“We will play some of the songs but there is so much stuff we have to cover in our live set it’s hard to imagine what we will play on the next tours we do, we would have to change the set a lot of times I think which some of the band don’t really like to do.”
What was the overall response from the press and more particularly the fans for that unexpected release?
“As far as I can remember it was good, but I now that at the time the fans felt that it should have been a full length album which is why of course we have done a follow up.”
"Leaders…" wasn’t a one off spectacular effort since it was followed in 2001 by the "Enemy Of The Music Business" album released on Dream Catcher again and the band proved that they were back to the "Utopia…" type of songwriting, fast, intense, catchy material, so even if this question can sound cheesy and naive, was it done on purpose or what? I mean did all of you have realised that this musical approach fitted the band the best contrary to the experimental sounds from "Diatribes" etc…?
“Speaking for myself, I definitively got more interested in playing fast again for many reasons, it seemed natural again and more from the heart ad genuine. I think we managed to old all our styles into that album. I guess we also decided to do a lot more of what we were good at doing as well… though I think the album is a lot more advanced musically than the previous blast albums we had done… speaking for myself it felt right again to do this album…”
The album title is a strong statement towards what the music business has become in the late 90s, considering that alot of magazines and music structures are ruled by huge corporations (Sony, Universal etc) where medium sized structures such as Roadrunner, Earache etc have more or less entered those structures, what kind of treatment did you get from the press and medias as a whole?
“I think on a whole we can’t complain from the press that we got, all the experiences we had dealing with labels was / is a learning cuve and I guess the “Enemy…” album lyrically represents that… I was in two minds with the album title really as you are in danger of being a hypocrite as we were still dealing with the music business, but the title goes way deeper than just that I feel… I guess it was a statement… it reflects that period of time!!!”
The second LOCK UP album was released in 2002 again on Nuclear Blast, maybe more extreme than the first but I personally think there’s a lack of catchiness as a whole with this one comparing to the first, how do you view it?
“I wouldn’t say so, I know there was a genuine urge from us to go faster and I guess there’s a lack of the really catchy Death Metal riffs (which I guess I was responsible for), I think on the next album we have to strike a balance and at the same time hopefully push forward as well as I really want LOCK UP to step out of NAPALM’s shadow… I think more time and preparation is needed with the third album.”
There’s talks from what I’ve seen lately about doing a LOCK UP live album in months to come, is that correct?
“When I get back to the U.K. after this tour I will be mixing the stuff we recorded out there in Japan, very early I guess for a live album but we had the opportunity to record the shows so we thought why not. I want to release the album on my own label though if possible, I will have to see where we stand with Nuclear Blast on this but that’s my aim… a sort of fan thing only… hopefully include some video on the CD as well!!!”
Have you toured quite a bit with LOCK UP (besides festivals like Wacken…) considering the busy schedules the four of you guys must have?
“We have only played about 12 shows I think but at some point in the near future we will tour on a much more larger scale, that’s the plan anyway.”
2002 saw also the release of two NAPALM DEATH DVDs. The first being released by Earache without a total band approval featuring live material from ’89 and ’90 and clips. How come that no agreement came with Earache after all those years?
“I guess they said they had asked us but at the time they owed us money so we were in no way gonna help them out with the DVD, it didn’t surprise me really as this is what most labels do and Earache have been re-issuing early stuff for ages as a way of generating cash so I wasn’t bothered either way.”
Then "Punishment In Capitals" was released featuring a show from 2002 plus interviews and stuff. Would you say that the other DVD being issued around the same time did more harm than anything else to that "official" release?
“I don’t think that it affected it either way really, most fans I have met have both I believe…”
How do you feel about DVD taking over the traditional video just like CD did over vinyl a decade previously?
“I like DVD actually as I am a big film fan and the extras you get with some of them are great… inevitably there will be something that will take over from DVDs as well… such is the future!”
Earache recently released a double CD album "Noise For Music’s Sake" which features cuts from all your releases on one CD and on the other CD rarer recordings from NAPALM DEATH including your own live recordings from NAPALM DEATH when you were a tape trader, plus a detailed booklet. Was it hard to compile and did you prefer to have a hand into this than having Earache issuing something that would not really give good value for the fans?
“At this point I realised they would release it regardless if there was any input from the band so I decided to oversee a lot of the material that went in… credit where credits due, Dan (Tobin) from Earache helped a lot on this as well… I guess for a brief period there things went relatively smoothly.”
This detailed booklet revealed me that you were in a band called DROP DEAD prior to WARHAMMER, have you recorded demos with that band back then?
“No we had a few rehearsals and that was it really, I used that as a point to bring Jimmy (Whiteley – NAPALM DEATH’s early bassplayer) into it all and give him some background, we were scheduled to play a show with CHAOS U.K. but it got pulled at the last minute… we did it as a fun thing to do which is pretty much all we did at this point… good times.”
Do you remember exactly when this band existed as I never got this outfit mentioned in any letter that I was exchanging with you (while you were in WARHAMMER) or with Mick Harris?
“Mid 86, I spoke with Micky recently and he can’t remember it which is weird, but Jimmy does… we had song titles like ‘Shadows In Stone’ very DISCHARGE type stuff, I think I had the riff from ‘Practice What You Preach’ in one of the tracks… wow I guess I still have a good memory… the band didn’t last very long though…”
As you played guitar in DROP DEAD – Andy Whale (later seen in BOLT THROWER) was the drummer. Why did you decide to take care of the guitar duties at this point instead of playing drums?
“I enjoyed playing guitar as well, I wasn’t that good at this point but not too bad I guess… these were the times you have to remember when we changed instruments like we changed clothes… all god fun!!”
To this day the last NAPALM DEATH release came in the shape of "Order Of The Leech" late 2002 on FETO Records this time with Simon Efemey again at the knobs, and even if I’m not sure it looks like FETO is the band’s own label. Is that correct and how did you end up leaving Dream Catcher for FETO?
“Again things didn’t really work out with Dream Catcher so a move was again on the cards, we don’t have the greatest luck I think… we started FETO as our on label but we went through Snapper for the “Order…” album… a one album deal… we will be looking for a new label for the covers album as of now as well so it’s all up in the air with the label idea at the moment… I guess we are still searching for the right deal to suit us.”
What made you decide to start your own label by the way? Was it hard to start in terms of getting the right distribution, getting budget for promotion etc? Is there plans to release material from other bands on that label in the more or less distant future – besides eventually a second UNSEEN TERROR album?
“It wasn’t hard for the “Order” album… all I can say is, yes there are plans to do all of what a label should do. It’s a question of timing I think, I don’t want to screw it up so I am moving very slowly with it.”
Once again "Order…" is in the pure tradition of NAPALM DEATH, classic material, what about the covers included on it this time?
“Well, we decided that we needed a couple of extra tracks so we thought that we would do some SEPTIC DEATH covers as again they were a major influence on us in the early years with their manic stop / start Hardcore… so we basically went through the songs a couple of times then recorded them in one take!!!”
Though it’s only a feeling I have about the fact that I think NAPALM DEATH has lost some ground in the late 90s and I may be wrong but do you feel that those recent batch of releases shows that NAPALM DEATH is on the way to regain some of that lost ground?
“I think that there is so many bands out there now that its a lot harder nowadays in general, sure people are more happy that we are blasting away but at the same time it’s harder to maintain your album sales in general I think… there’s a lot of competition… we just do what we do and hope that’s enough!”
How do you think the overcrowded scene that we see today, overcrowded by billions of Grind / Death / Black Metal bands and by tiny labels everywhere is gonna evolve in years to come? I mean it’s obvious that for a fan looking for quality and not quantity musically it’s hard to know what’s good to be picked and what’s not
“Different people, different tastes!!! What I like others may hate… in some ways it’s great that the scene has evolved so much, but it’s a different time and of course we are older now as well so we see things differently… with some of the new bands I try to listen to them as I would have back in the day… some bands of course just tear your head off right away and that’s what you want, it’s a learning process for me… it’s a tough choice… whatever makes you happy!”
Another totally unexpected news that came out recently concerns that new project, VENOMOUS CONCEPT which features you on bass, Kevin Sharp on vocals (BRUTAL TRUTH), Buzz Osborne (MELVINS / FANTOMAS) and amazingly Mick Harris on drums, what can you tell us on this?
“Well Kevin actually drove us around on the last tour with NILE, so after that finished I stayed at his place and we talked about doing a project together as we never had… he mentioned Buzz and I mentioned Micky. Unfortunately after a couple of rehearsals with Micky he decided not to carry on with the idea so I drafted Danny from NAPALM DEATH in which has worked out really well… We have actually finished the album, “Retroactive Abortion” now having recorded it while I was in Los Angeles last month. It sounds like a mid eighties Punk album which was the idea, I believe we are gonna be recording some tracks for some split releases next year and hopefully a Japanese tour as they are always fun and was one of the main idea’s for the conception.”
Rumors around say that Jesse might leave NAPALM DEATH due to personal problems, do you want to comment that or…? If that’s official do you have already a replacement in mind or are you gonna opt for a single guitarist from now?
“The future with Jesse in NAPALM DEATH is really up to him to be honest, and without him here to defend himself I don’t want to say too much. Yes we have had problems with him due to many things, alcohol and personal – he’s also been through a rough time recently. We decided that he should take a break at home with his family until he really works out what is best for him in general, not just for the band but for the rest of his life. I miss him to be honest but the break is necessary I think and all being well he should be back on track with us next year, but we all plan on taking some time off next year to concentrate on other things so let’s see what the future brings shall we!”
Have you started to work on the next proper studio album? If so, so far would you say that the material finished is along the lines of the last two albums?
“I have four songs demoed and yes it’s in the vein of the last album, also trying to reintroduce some of those classic CELTIC FROST riffs as well but dare I say it it’s also faster!!!”
Considering all the projects that you’ve been involved with, is there something I forgot to cover at that point? You can mention also your work with BRUJERIA that "mysterious" act, MEATHOOK SEED…
“Well we played our first four shows with BRUJERIA last month and they were fun. MEATHOOK is more of a Mitch project and we have only played a couple of times, in France actually with OUT I recall! I have a few more projects lined up, a second BLOOD FROM THE SOUL, a second UNSEEN TERROR album, a project with the guy from ANAAL NAHRAKH, and also a project with Lee Dorian (CATHEDRAL) and Roy Mayorga from SOULFLY next year all being well… so busy times ahead I guess you could say.”
Name your five best albums ever, five fave songs and five best shows!
“An impossible task but to day at this moment it would be… Five best albums: REPULSION – "Horrified", VENOM – "Black Metal", SKINNY PUPPY – "To Dark Park", COCTEAU TWINS – "Victorialand" and SAXON – "Wheels Of Steel". Five best songs: ‘747 (Strangers In The Night)’ – SAXON, ‘Pentagram’ – POSSESSED, ‘Evil’ – MERCYFUL FATE, ‘Cities’ – STRAPPING YOUNG LAD and ‘Warlock’ – SKINNY PUPPY. Five best live shows: HELMET – CBGB’S,New York 1991, EXTREME NOISE TERROR – The Mermaid, Birmingham, UK April 1986, NAPALM DEATH – The Mermaid, Birmingham March 1986, VENOM / EXODUS – Birmingham Odeon 1985 and CELTIC FROST – Hammersmith Palais, London April 1986."
So last but not least, what can we expect from NAPALM DEATH in years to come and do you have something to add to end up that huge feature?
"Well we finish the European tour we are on now December 12th and break for X-Mas. We have a tour of Japan in January of next year. We have to finish mixing the covers album and I guess that’s that for a while until April / May I suppose. There are some ideas afoot for the next album but I guess we will probably tour the covers album when that gets released. I would like to see the band tour America next year as we have neglected that place too much in my opinion but we will see… Interesting times ahead I think!”